COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a term given to a group of lung diseases that make it harder to breathe air out of the lungs. These lung diseases can include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis and sometimes asthma. There is a little bit of confusion as to what the difference between emphysema and COPD is, as you can have COPD without emphysema, but you cannot have emphysema without COPD.
What Is COPD?
As stated above, COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is more of an overall term used for different kinds of lung disease. COPD can hinder your normal breathing and typically stays with you throughout your entire life and gets worse over time. There are numerous symptoms that can go along with COPD including shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest pains and the overproduction of mucus in the airways.
There are four different stages of COPD which are measured by how much air you displace during a forced breath. During the first stage of COPD, the amount of air you displace will be above 80%; however, by the fourth stage, it will be below 35%.
What Is Emphysema?
Emphysema is classified under COPD but the two are not interchangeable. For example, someone can be diagnosed with COPD without also being diagnosed with emphysema as they could be suffering from chronic bronchitis.
When someone is suffering from emphysema, their lungs are damaged to the point where they cannot fix them. Emphysema affects either the walls between the air sacs in your lungs or the air sacs themselves. These air sacs are where your lungs and blood exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide when you breathe. The outcome of this then would be fewer larger air sacs rather than the multitude of air sacs that a healthy person would have.
What Is the Cause of COPD and Emphysema?
The leading reason for someone to develop COPD including emphysema is smoking cigarettes. Most people who have been diagnosed with COPD/emphysema either smoke or have smoked cigarettes at some point in their lives. Although COPD has other factors that could contribute to it including air pollutants, chemical fumes, dust and other irritants, the fact that smoking is the leading cause means that this disease is highly preventable.
There is a way to determine if you have COPD or not and that is through the Pulmonary Function Test (PFT). If you think that you may have COPD and want to learn more about this test, you can look on our website or you can contact us.